Interesting Defense Tactic

USC officials discussed how much money some families stood to donate while deliberating whether to endorse their children as “VIP” applicants, according to emails filed recently in federal court.

Lawyers for Jovan Vavic, who was fired as USC’s water polo coach in 2019 after being charged with misrepresenting applicants as talented athletic recruits in exchange for bribes, put forward the emails to support a request to call USC officials as witnesses in his trial, which began this week in Boston.

Vavic has pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering, bribery and fraud.

Prosecutors say Vavic conspired with the scheme’s admitted ringleader, William “Rick” Singer, to deceive the school’s admissions office in exchange for payments to the USC water polo program’s account and Singer’s paying the private school tuition of Vavic’s children.

Vavic’s lawyers say USC effectively required coaches to raise funds for their programs. One of his attorneys, Stephen G. Larson, previously told The Times that the case brought against Vavic “ignores the reality that at USC, a parent’s ability and willingness to contribute to the university, including to athletics, influenced admissions decisions.”

Larson is seeking to call three current and former USC officials to testify about the school’s fundraising practices. The emails that he filed in court, he said, show that Alexandra Reisman, Scott Wandzilak and Joseph Aguirre discussed giving “preferential admissions treatment for children of prospective donors, including with Coach Vavic.”

In one of the messages, Reisman said she had obtained “intel” on a family who she feared was “going to screw us on a gift.”

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